|02.21.10 at 2:37 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox acquired Bill Hall from the Mariners in the Casey Kotchman deal to add bench depth at just about every position on the diamond. For his part, Hall — who arrived at his new team’s minor league training facility on Sunday — has no reservations about embracing that role.
“I think I’m going to get more gloves sent in this year,” said Hall.
Hall grew up idolizing Ozzie Smith, and so shortstop became the position he embraced. He spent his entire professional life — including his most productive offensive years, including his 35 homer season with the Brewers in 2006 — at that station of the diamond. Yet now, after not playing at that position at all in 2009, he suggests that will be the position where he needs to send the most time in this spring training.
“I played every position except short and center last year,” said Hall. “I played left, right, third and second. I didn’t get to play center, but almost. I’m two years removed from center, so I can play there, too. … Shortstop is the position I haven’t played in the longest in the big leagues. I’m probably going to play most of my time there. I feel up to speed on the other positions.”
Hall said that he hasn’t played first base before, and that he has yet to hear from the Sox whether they want him to do so. Though he doesn’t have a first baseman’s mitt, Hall said that he is very much open to the possibility.
“I’m up for anything. I’ve played every position,” said Hall. “I feel I’m athletic enough to move over to first base and hopefully make it look like I’ve played there for some years.”
Of course, defensive versatility is only part of the package that Hall hopes to bring. The 30-year-old native of Tupelo, Miss. (birthplace of Elvis), has seen his average, OBP, slugging and OPS decline in each of the last three seasons.
He is coming off a campaign where he hit .201/.258/.338/.596 for the Brewers and, following a mid-year deal that represented a salary dump, the Mariners. That is a far cry from Hall’s monster 2006 campaign, when he hit .270/.345/.553/.899 with 35 homers for the Brewers.
Hall traces his offensive decline to an injury he suffered on July 5, 2007. He was playing his first season as a center fielder rather than a shortstop. On a deep fly by Ryan Doumit, Hall attempted the spectacular, trying to climb the wall to make a leaping catch. His elevation exceeded his expectations, and his timing was off on the landing, resulting in a crash on his right ankle. At the time, Hall was hitting .271/.336/.448/.784, and he had been trending upwards, hitting .325/.404/.563/.967 over the 22 games up to his injury.
When he came back, Hall suggests that his ankle was not ready. Without the support of his back foot, his mechanics came unhinged.
“In ’07 when I hurt my ankle and came back way too fast. I had to change the way I swung. It was my backside ankle and I couldn’t rotate down into the ball anymore like I could before I was injured,” said Hall. “I came in after hitting 35 homers, didn’t get off to the great start, got hurt, came back, and didn’t have the power I used to have. I was trying to create it instead of using my backside and letting it happen. I was spinning off the ball and trying to pull everything out and it turned into a lot of bad habits. I went back this offseason, changed all those, figured out what I was doing wrong, and go from there. …
“You ingrain something into your head on a swing, and it kept getting worse and worse. This offseason I went back to the drawing board, simplified my swing and started using my backside again. I haven’t hit the ball to right field like I can in almost two and a half years. Now I’m driving the ball to right and hitting the ball out to center again. When you can stay on the ball longer and guys are throwing sliders and things like that, it’s going to keep me on the ball longer and not lose the power I had.”
Hall recognizes that hitting will be the ticket to playing time. Depending on how the Red Sox roster aligns, he could represent the sole right-handed outfield bench option or the only backup capable of playing short and second.
“Everybody knows I can play some defense and everyone knows I can hit. I’ve just had some unfortunate incidents in the last couple of years and I feel like I’m pretty close back to where I used to be,” said Hall. “I don’t want to put a number on [the amount of playing time he wants]. Obviously the utility guy last year, Nick Green, obviously had a lot of at-bats and played a lot of shortstop last year. I don’t want to put a number on it. [Manager Terry Francona] just promised me plenty of at-bats and opportunities to prove I could be the player I want to be. That revolves around hitting.”
|02.21.10 at 2:30 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The manager sat down with the media on Saturday afternoon and discussed Josh Beckett, Victor Martinez, and John Lackey (among other things).
|02.21.10 at 2:29 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Josh Beckett, like Dustin Pedroia, doesn’t stay awake at nights worrying too much about statistics. But he says he concerns himself with being labeled the Red Sox ace even less.
“I don’t even know what ace is,” Beckett said. “Is that an acronym for something? I’ve always tried to sort of figure that out. I feel like you go out there, you work in between starts, you get your work in and you go out there and compete.”
Beckett enters 2010 as the undisputed leader of a staff that now includes himself, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield in some combination or another.
What Beckett does focus on is making the most of his good starts and minimizing the damage during the not-so-good ones.
“If you can weather the storm through,” Beckett said. “An old veteran guy told me this one time, ‘You’re going to have five starts where you feel every one of them. You’re going to have five starts where you feel like [crap] and you’ve got to figure out a way to get a no decision or something. And the other starts are the ones that will dictate how your season is going to be.’”
Beckett weathered the storm well in 2009, going 17-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 32 starts.
“Weathering the storm is the most important thing,” he said. “Every professional pitcher goes through the ups and downs. It’s just how you come out of those, do you learn from them or do you keep making the same mistakes. I’m not too concerned with the labels.”
Concerned or not, that hasn’t kept the likes of Jon Lester and skipper Terry Francona from declaring Beckett as the unmatched leader of the staff in the first few days of camp.
“That’s a huge honor, especially in an organization so rich as this one and with as much talented as we have,” Beckett said. “There is a lot of responsibility that comes with that. I don’t think it’s what you say, it’s what you do and I think that’s more what Tito is talking about because I don’t think I corner people and tell them, ‘This is what you have to do.’ I go about my work and Tito sees that and he just kind of expects people to fall in line where they are.”
Beckett has the potential this spring to not only influence pitchers already on the roster but those whose future are destined for Boston. Beckett has briefly spoken with one of those hurlers – righthander Casey Kelly, who is in big league camp with the Red Sox.
“I don’t think it’s my position to go and corner somebody,” Beckett said. “I think if they want to learn the best way to learn for most of us is just to watch and see how other people act. Obviously, there’s going to be learning things for Casey, we all go through them. Some of them are probably going to be good, some of them are probably going to be bad, or at least he’s going to think they’re bad at the time but you learn at lot more from your failure than through succeeding all the time.”
And while Pedroia said earlier in the day he doesn’t pay much attention to run prevention, the same cannot be said for Beckett. He is welcoming the upgrade in defense across the board with names like Adrian Beltre at third and Mike Cameron in center, moving the speedy Jacoby Ellsbury to left.
“Obviously, I’m a big fan of it just because I stand on the hill and throw 100 pitches every five days,” he said. “So, any time you can eliminate some of the base hits, which I think we’re going to do with range, and also just field the balls that are hit, I think that that’s really big. I’m kind of a guy who mixes it up between fly balls and ground balls so we’ve got some guys in the outfield that can run and get ball and some guys that can field the ball on the infield.”
|02.21.10 at 1:23 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Josh Beckett spoke with the media for the first time this spring training and was asked about a number of topics, including his contract, the Mike Lowell situation, being called the leader of the pitching staff, and John Lackey.
|02.21.10 at 9:44 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The first days of spring training are usually defined by routine: the familiar sound of ball and bat, the placid sight of a bullpen session.
In that context, flash stands out. And thus it is that Jose Iglesias, in the first day of official Red Sox workouts on Saturday, dazzled.
Iglesias was signed by the Sox to a four-year, $8.25 million major league deal over the summer. While some teams were surprised that the price went that high, there was at least one team — the Cubs — that, according to multiple baseball sources, was willing to pay even more to acquire the 20-year-old, who instead decided to sign with a Boston organization that had been his favorite American team while growing up.
While one should never get carried away with the first sights of spring training — especially since games have yet to begin — it is not difficult to see why teams became so enamored with the native of Cuba. Iglesias’ first day of infield drills drew plenty of attention. One interested onlooker was Sox infield coach Tim Bogar, who was intrigued to see whether the reality of the shortstop’s defense might be anywhere near the reputation.
“My first impression is how calm he is, how mechanically sound he is. Even though he’s capable of doing above-average type of stuff, he’s very mechanically sound, which makes every ball seem easier, playing the hops,” said Bogar. “He intrigues you with just how simple it looks. He does things that are second nature to him that we have to try to figure out. It’s interesting to see. He’s beyond his years fielding-wise, being able to get himself in the right position. That’s the first impression. Obviously, I haven’t seen how things happen in a game. It’s the second day. But I’m very impressed with how he goes about his business, his work ethic.”
But Iglesias demonstrates more than just a precocious professionalism. He also shows stand-out abilities with certain aspects. During the Rookie Development Program in Boston in January, Iglesias extensively with an instructor to practice glove-to-base flips, not bothering to transfer the ball to his hand. On Saturday, Bogar saw how the practice paid off.
“I had heard all these stories about how good he is with his hands, flipping the ball. There was a ball that was hit, he flips to second base with his glove and it was perfect. It was kind of a slow roller, about 15 feet from second base,” said Bogar. “I don’t like comparing guys to other guys. It’s not fair to them. But I came up with Rey Ordonez. Unbelievable hands. He reminded me a lot of Rey, who I spent a lot of time with.”
Bogar knows whereof he speaks. Bogar came up in the Mets system, and so he spent plenty of time watching Ordonez after he signed with the Mets after leaving Cuba. The two were both in the New York organization from 1993-96, and Bogar was captivated by the three-time Gold Glover.
“I was a defensive type of player, so I loved guys like that. So I was always intrigued about how he went about it. He was just as smooth as can be. He was the one who kind of brought the sliding backhand in at short,” said Bogar. “Because Rey was so athletic, he did things that normal guys, we’d need buttons in a video game to try to do. So, I’m interested to see how this progresses this spring, see [Iglesias] play games. He’s exciting to watch. He kind of gives you a, ‘Wow.’”
Certainly, that is the case in something as routine as infield drills, where Iglesias exudes an obvious love for the game. Bogar noted that in the five rounds of batting practice on Saturday, Iglesias stayed at short to work on his craft for the four groups in which he was not hitting. And then, there are the tricks — the shortstop will do things like bounce the ball off the back of his glove a couple of times before firing it to second.
“Guys like him, Rey Ordonez, guys like that – they get bored with regular groundballs,” said Bogar. “It’s like you and me drinking a cup of coffee, and they want a latte or an espresso. He keeps himself working at those other plays.”
Of course, none of the tricks in the world will matter. A dunk contest winner does not an MVP make. And so, while there is a ‘wow’ factor to initial sightings of Iglesias, Bogar notes that it is important to focus on the bottom line.
“I don’t want him to lose [the tricks]. The bottom line is, can I make the right turn into the dugout? He’s got to have his own style and his own flash, but there’s a line where you want to get to with that. You don’t want to become all flash and show. We need outs. He gets that, too,” said Bogar. “He’s very into it. You can tell he wants to learn. His mind is wide open right now. Talking to [minor-league infield instructor] Gary DiSarcina about how quickly he adjusts, he wants to improve. Hopefully I’m going to see that soon.”
|02.21.10 at 9:39 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia has never been one to avoid a challenge.
So when he was asked very directly how he and the Red Sox are going to answer the critics of the Red Sox offense, he didn’t shy away from providing an direct answer.
“We’ll see,” Pedroia said on Sunday morning. “We haven’t even had a spring training practice but guys are going to have to step up. I’m going to have to step up, everyone is. That’s how it goes during the season. Everyone is going to have to have good at-bats and put them together in a row to score a lot of runs. We’ll do that. We’ll be better than a lot of people think.
“The only thing I care about is if we score more runs than them. They need to put a statistic on that – it’s called wins and losses. That’s the only thing I think anybody around here is caring about.”
But that’s not to say Pedroia hasn’t heard the critics. On Sunday, he went as far as to acknowledge it could be a source of motivation.
“Yeah, it kind of upsets me but I really don’t care what you guys think anyway,” Pedroia said with a understanding smile.
Reminded that the lineup has lost Jason Bay and likely will see the departure of Mike Lowell, Pedroia quipped, “I’ll hit more home runs, then.”
Pedroia and Lowell have stayed in touch over the winter, the latest tumultuous one Lowell has had to ride out with the Red Sox. Last year, it was the team’s near-miss with Mark Teixeira and this winter it was the signing of defensive wiz Adrian Beltre.
“It’s tough,” Pedroia said. “Me and Mike are really close. I went out to dinner with him a couple of times in the offseason. He came to Arizona with his surgery and everything. He’ll be fine. He’s been around a long time. He knows and he understands his role if he stays here.
“Obviously, there’s a chance he could get traded but Mike’s a great guy, he’s a team guy and he wants to win. Whatever role he’s given, I’m sure he’s going to accept it.”
Pedroia downplayed the significance the team has placed on new age terms like run-prevention and UZR [Ultimate Zone Rating] to value players.
“I don’t even buy into that stuff,” Pedroia said. “We have great pitching, we have great defense and we have good offensive players. I don’t even know what run prevention is. I’m kind of a baseball players. I don’t know how to read very good. I don’t know how to write very good. We just go play. We’ll be fine.
“I’m excited, I think everyone is. I think we’ve got a lot of good players. Obviously, we’ve got a great pitching staff. We just have to find a way to go out there and score runs for them and I think we’re going to be fine.”
|02.21.10 at 9:06 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Watch Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek, and Kevin Youkilis take some hacks in the batting cages at the Red Sox minor league facility.
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